Family Lives response to Ask FM

“Parents are contacting Family Lives & Bullying UK to express their concern about new website, Ask FM which lets any viewer see the names, photographs and personal details of children as young as 13, then post comments or questions on their profile pages that range from insults to perverted sexual advances and threats of violence.  This is deeply worrying.  That a website enables young and impressionable children and by proxy adults to anonymously post damaging and derogatory comments towards young and potentially impressionable girls and boys needs to be addressed. This is a child protection issue.  If an adult was to take a child under the age of 16 into a house and show him or her pictures of young children and make inappropriate comments they would be open for prosecution under the laws of the United Kingdom, yet Ask FM website allows anyone to view images of young children.  

Parents have always worried about their children’s use of existing and emerging technologies. Family Lives encourages parents to have conversations with their children as the consequences of accessing inappropriate & violent sites can be extremely damaging and can distort perceptions about real life and relationships.  We advise keeping PCs, Laptops and Tablets in a room used by all the family.  Parents must monitor how much time their child/ren spend online and encourage them to openly talk about what they’re looking at.  Young people are more likely to seek help and advice from parents who listen and are supportive, rather than those who lecture or fly off the handle.  

The more help and information that parents and carers have to understand these issues and talk to their kids about risky behaviours, the safer their kids will be. Free advice is available through the Family Lives 24/7 Helpline on 0808 800 222 and at www.familylives.org.uk.”

Jeremy Todd, Family Lives Chief Executive

Additional Information

A 2011 Family Lives Survey of 800 parents and 600 children found that 67% of parents felt they were best placed to talk to their children about sexting.  Only 57% of dad’s however were prepared to discuss the issue compared to 75% of mums. Dad’s came up short once again with only 40% prepared to talk about general sexual activity and online pornography compared to 50% of mum’s.

To empower parents, Family Lives have produced a Top Tips list. The advice includes:

  • Having a plan will make your life easier.  Rather than waiting for something bad to happen, think about when and how you are going to start and keep the conversation going about topics like sexting. 
  • Pick a time when neither of you feel rushed or under pressure.  Avoid starting a conversation just as your child is going to bed or walking out the door.  
  • Get to know their friends’ parents. They’ll probably share your concerns, so you could agree on rules around technology and supervision. You can also share anecdotes about the questions your children have asked, which might help you prepare for your own conversations.
  • Talk to your teen about sex and relationships and let them know that respecting one another is important. They should not have to feel forced into doing anything they are not comfortable with and they can come and talk to you if they feel pressured.
  • Encourage your child to report any incidents of sexual bullying whether they are involved or not.
  • Make it clear that any incidents of bullying are unacceptable no matter where they are and that it will not be tolerated.
  • Most importantly let them know that there is a great risk that this image could be shown to others or distributed on the World Wide Web and there will be little that he or she can do to stop this.
  • Do not dismiss sexist language or behaviour as funny. Remember that you need to a role model for them and they will look to you to determine what is right and what is wrong
  • Use a storyline from an article or TV programme to start up the conversation about this